Aviation occurrence briefs

Operational non-compliance incident involving a Beech Aircraft Corporation BE76, near Gold Coast Airport, Qld, on 30 April 2018

Status: Completed
Investigation completed


Occurrence Briefs are concise reports that detail the facts surrounding a transport safety occurrence, as received in the initial notification and any follow-up enquiries. They provide an opportunity to share safety messages in the absence of an investigation.

What happened

On 30 April 2018, at about 1114 Eastern Standard Time, a Beech Aircraft Corporation BE76 was on a dual flying training flight under instrument flight rules[1], returning to Gold Coast, Queensland (Qld). There were an instructor and student pilot on board the aircraft.

During the cruise, Brisbane air traffic control (ATC) issued a heading vector to the flight crew. The student pilot set the autopilot’s heading bug to the assigned heading but did not change the autopilot from navigation mode to heading mode resulting in the aircraft continuing on the original heading. The instructor did not detect that the student pilot had not selected heading mode and as the autopilot is positioned to the left of the instrument panel, it is difficult for them to see the selected control mode.

The instructor was troubleshooting why the aircraft had not turned onto the required heading when the crew received an instruction from ATC to descend. The student pilot entered the assigned altitude into the assigned altitude indicator and disconnected the autopilot. The aircraft subsequently climbed 100 ft above the assigned altitude. This generated an alert to ATC.

The crew then regained positive control of the aircraft and descended in accordance with the clearance.

Safety message

This incident highlights the importance of all flight crewmembers being aware of the selected autopilot modes during all stages of flight. When changes are made to the selected mode, these should be verbalised and where possible verified by the second crewmember.

About this report

Decisions regarding whether to conduct an investigation, and the scope of an investigation, are based on many factors, including the level of safety benefit likely to be obtained from an investigation. For this occurrence, no investigation has been conducted and the ATSB did not verify the accuracy of the information. A brief description has been written using information supplied in the notification and any follow-up information in order to produce a short summary report, and allow for greater industry awareness of potential safety issues and possible safety actions.



  1. Instrument flight rules (IFR): a set of regulations that permit the pilot to operate an aircraft to operate in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), which have much lower weather minimums than visual flight rules (VFR). Procedures and training are significantly more complex as a pilot must demonstrate competency in IMC conditions while controlling the aircraft solely by reference to instruments. IFR-capable aircraft have greater equipment and maintenance requirements.
General details
Date: 30 April 2018   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1114 EST    
Location   (show map): 31 km S of Gold Coast Airport    
State: Queensland    
Release Date: 16 November 2018   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Beech Aircraft Corp  
Aircraft model 76  
Type of operation Flying Training  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Gold Coast, Qld  
Destination Gold Coast, Qld  
Last update 12 December 2018